By Vicki Needham - 01/30/12 10:00 AM EST
A majority of voters say they have not benefited from the payroll tax holiday that lawmakers are working to extend through the rest of this year, according to this week’s poll conducted for The Hill.
Fifty-four percent said the tax holiday has not helped them financially, while only 25 percent said it had been a help to them.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have made the temporary extension of the payroll tax cut — which dropped the tax rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent — a top priority, arguing that it will save the average middle-class taxpayer $1,500 this year.
When broken down by party, 61 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats said they didn’t benefit from the tax cut. Only 35 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans said they did.
Still, that hasn’t stopped generally broad support for extending the tax break through the end of this year.
With the expiration of a two-month extension looming at the end of February, lawmakers acknowledged last week that they face a mountain of hurdles to pass a bill that includes the tax cut along with other initiatives, including an extension of federal unemployment benefits for the rest of the year.
Most of the major obstacles derive from other issues, such as a Republican push to force the Obama administration’s hand on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
There is plenty of pressure on Republicans to strike a deal quickly, especially following GOP leaders’ acknowledgment that they mishandled negotiations last month before caving as everyone headed out of town for the holidays.
Despite the holiday season misstep, The Hill Poll shows that voters favor Republicans over Democrats on tax policy, with 45 percent saying the GOP has a better approach, compared to 41 percent for Democrats.
That is similar to results when that question was asked in The Hill’s Oct. 27, 2011, poll, when 44 percent of likely voters preferred Republicans on tax policy, compared to 43 percent for Democrats.
Even as the White House ramps up its argument that the economic playing field is skewed toward wealthier Americans, the percentage of voters who call income equality a “big problem” declined to 45 percent this month from 55 percent in October.
During his State of the Union address last week, Obama said: “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
Those saying income inequality is somewhat of a problem increased to 27 percent from 19 percent last fall. That means 72 percent this month see income inequality as either somewhat of a problem or a big one, while 74 percent said so last year.
Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say income inequality is a big problem, 64 percent to 32 percent .
The Hill Poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Jan. 26 by Pulse Opinion Research, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.